medical history

Despite the macabre nature of the grim discovery of a Medieval Italian woman’s body buried with her partially delivered unborn baby, the medical findings and their implications prove quite fascinating and educational. Though my colleagues at ACSH were unanimously horrified by the gruesome details of the case when I brought it to their attention and the notion of a post-mortem “coffin birth” in general, the account just published in World Neurosurgery marries my interests in neurosurgery (the field in which I started my career), maternal-fetal physiology and forensics while informing about the dynamic strides made over time in medical thinking.

After learning about this story, you will...

Would our deceased Presidents fare better today medically than they did in their respective eras? The answer might surprise you.

Of the thirty-eight United States’ presidents who have died, collectively, they surpassed life expectancies of their respective generations. (1) Did being in such a position of prominence afford them superior care to account for this windfall?

Unpacking their individual causes of death in parallel with medical advancement is one way to provoke greater understanding.

Being alive when we didn’t know how disease spread, sadly, sealed Washington’s fate.

Washington is a perfect example of how evolution of standard of care could have saved his life. Though well-intended, his physicians could not have known then what we...

Do you know what a "bezoar” is? Probably not, but you have likely heard the term "psychosomatic," which means an ailing mind can actually physically bother or impair your body.

Sometimes the primary disease is truly in your head, or at least it seems to have started there.

First, in answer to the question. A bezoar (1) is various masses of material that can't be digested - "calculi" - usually found in the gastrointestinal organs. As a result, it becomes like a rock in the body prompting mechanical obstruction and nutritional problems to occur.

In olden days, such a "bezoar stone" was considered to possess magical properties, especially if it came from animals. One belief was that they were mystical and could cure poisons. In the 16th century, the famous surgeon,...

monaural stethoscopeIn 1816 the ubiquitous stethoscope, in modern times a symbol of medicine itself, made its first appearance.

With it came a higher order of clinical assessment; far better diagnosis than had been possible before. But to the public it was more than that. A stethoscope, and a doctor who could diagnose a problem by listening, was comforting -- being able to find a problem by listening spoke of years of experience and insight, all devoted to personal medical problems.

The stethoscope can't take credit for all of...